At NUS Scotland’s national conference, serving women’s officer Vonnie Sandlan was elected to succeed outgoing president Gordon Maloney ahead of Robert Foster, the current vice-president (education).
Ms Sandlan, a graduate of the University of West Scotland, is the first woman to lead the NUS north of the border for a decade.
In her manifesto, she described how she had lived in a homeless hostel after leaving school at 16 and was an unemployed single parent by the age of 19, but had had her life changed by the “transformative power of education”.
Speaking after her election, Ms Sandlan said student issues had to be “at the top of every party’s agenda” in Scotland.
“When access to education still too often depends on your background rather than potential, when student support still doesn’t give the financial assurances it should, when education is still inflexible to the needs of students, it’s clear we still have a long way to go,” she said.
In Northern Ireland, Fergal McFerran, a final-year student at Queen’s University Belfast, was elected to lead the NUS-USI [Union of Students in Ireland].
He said he would “strongly oppose” cuts to higher education funding that have triggered job cuts and warnings of course closures.
“So many young people may have felt the need to move away to gain work or study opportunities and we need urgent investment to turn this devastating situation around,” he said.
At the annual conference of NUS Wales, serving president Beth Button was re-elected for a second term in office.
UK-wide NUS positions will be filled at the organisation’s national conference between 21 and 23 April.